As parents, it's our job to know and understand what is going on with our children. From school, friends, and activities, to what they are doing online. Things have come a long way since we were playing Space Invaders in the basement. Online safety is now another thing we must be concerned about and it has to be a top priority.
With six kids between the ages of 6 and 15, I’m constantly managing a lot of tech in my house. I believe the current total tech round-up includes: two desktop computers, six laptops, three gaming systems, five handheld gaming devices, four cell phones, three iPad minis, and countless iPods. It's a lot to keep track of but we are somehow able to keep on top of it all. Here's how you can do it too:
Before you let your kid loose into the online world, ask yourself the following questions:
Is my kid ready to be online?
If your kid is not ready, then don’t let them go online just yet. If you don’t feel like your child has the maturity, good judgement or social skills to be in this space, don’t let them be there. Simple as that.
How will I monitor my kids’ privacy?
I think it’s acceptable for parents to monitor kids’ accounts. I take no issue with parents having their children’s passwords. Safety trumps privacy when it comes to children and teenagers. If your child is online and communicating inappropriately or talking to the wrong people, these communications can haunt them forever. One goofy post can come up 10 years later in a job interview. Make sure your kids know that whatever they post is there forever. Even if they’re promised it won’t be, it is. Too many people have learned this lesson the hard way. Don’t let your child be one of them.
How much screen time should I allow?
You have to do what works for you, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You will have to try different strategies to see what works best for your family.
I’ve tried various systems over the years with different levels of success. Because I have so many children and there is so much activity, I have just found it is easier in our home to have no screens during the week. Obviously, if they’re working on a school project, that is fine, but there are no video games, YouTube videos, etc. I allow very little social media time for my teenagers.
What should happen if things go wrong?
Building a strong relationship of trust with your kids is something that should already exist when they get online. You need to be an open communicator that your children are not afraid to talk to.
My kids know they have to tell me if they see something online that is not appropriate or if they think a friend is acting strange online. The best way to keep your children safe is to keep the lines of communication wide open.
Where should their computers be?
Keep computer and device use in open spaces, spaces that can't be closed off by a door.
Our living room has been transformed into a computer lab where everyone works, plays and is social online in the same physical space. We don’t allow screens in bedrooms. It’s hard to get in trouble when your parents are walking in and out of the room and your siblings are beside you.
Cyber-crime and cyber-bullying are real, so it's essential that parents purchase an all-in-one security software system. My favourite? I like Norton Security Premium.
There are many things that make this software in particular my favourite. One of the helpful features you will love is if your kid's (or your) device goes missing, Norton Security Premium will allow you to lock the device remotely, back up data, or wipe off data remotely. It also includes:
Public Wi-Fi and hotspots are notoriously unsecure and this can leave kids vulnerable. There are ways people can spy on Internet activity and use the information they discover such as log in information, debit card numbers and find out personal information, like where you live. Norton Security Premium ensures devices are always connected to secure Wi-Fi. Before heading out, your kids' devices should always be locked with a passcode to avoid unwanted eyes on their data.
There are more scams going on than you can even wrap your head around. Anti-virus protection isn’t really doing the job anymore. It’s definitely worth considering a multi-layered protection offering like what Norton offers.
Parents are overwhelmed – I get it. But we can’t be too far removed from what our kids are doing online. If your kids are on Instagram, get yourself an account and follow them. Did you just find out they’re tweeting? Get onto Twitter, follow them there too. The more you know, the safer your kids will be. Although there are many social media channels, you can figure this out. Spend some time online and try to navigate and acquaint yourself with the various platforms. Heck, get your kids to teach you by having them show you what they know! Understand what hashtags are, who they are communicating with, and set the appropriate privacy settings. Parents should also educate their children about the dangers of clicking any suspicious links and use caution when talking about their whereabouts on social media. Doing these things can make their info open to hackers.
Watch this short video to learn what else can do today to keep your kids safe online:
I know it's overwhelming, but this is the new reality. Rather than being afraid, embrace technology and use it as a way to connect even more with your kids. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about it, set limits and boundaries, share information and of course, provide some online security. The Internet is a wonderful place to hang out. Just do it safely.